Read Maura's Game Online

Authors: Martina Cole

Tags: #Fiction, #Suspense

Maura's Game (7 page)

BOOK: Maura's Game
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swear to that. But if you start any antics I will have no qualms about nutting you once and for all, OK?”

Kenny nodded. The futility of his own situation was what smarted with him most. He was used to being the man. How many times had he sat somewhere and watched some other mug who had crossed the line shit himself because he had a capture? It was a very revealing few hours.

When Maura Ryan walked into the room Kenny was so relieved he almost smiled at her.

Maura, though, looked far too serious for his liking and he wondered once more if he would ever see his little daughter again or be around to bury his wife.

Sarah Ryan opened the front door to the young priest with a big smile on her face.

“Hello, Father.”

She was preening herself with satisfaction. A man of God at her front door for all the neighbours to see was her idea of Heaven on earth. She knew that they were all aware of exactly who her children were and it amazed her that so many of them were impressed by their violent reputation. She herself was ashamed and scandalised most of the time.

“I am Father Peter, the new priest at St. Bartholomew’s. I came to say hello.”

His Irish accent was like music to her ears and what a fine handsome young man he was, his curly hair neatly slicked down and dark eyes smiling. She ushered him into her lounge with as much alacrity as her advanced years would allow. She was pink with pleasure and the young man smiled at her kindly. As he settled himself on the sofa she watched him eyeing her religious statues and said with pride, “I have always been a good Catholic and a true believer, Father. Now, can I get you a cup of tea and a bit of cake?”

“Thank you, that sounds wonderful.”

As she left the room Sarah was walking on air. This was just what she needed to bump her up a bit. She was so down over young Terry and the new priest showing up when she was at her lowest ebb felt like fate at work. As she made the tea she sifted through stories she could regale the priest with that would make her family look less criminal than they were. She could not think of many and knew that their reputations would have preceded them as usual.

She walked back into the room to see if he wanted sugar and was confronted by a sight she’d never dreamed she would see in a million years. The young priest had gone through her dresser, opening drawers and rifling through letters and other personal effects. He was holding an old photograph of Sarah and her nine children, and as she stood in the doorway watching in amazement he tore it in two.

“What in the name of Jesus do you think you are doing?”

Her voice held a note of command. It was the one she had used years ago when her nine children were rampaging through the house and she had to make herself heard above the din.

The young man stared at her, and suddenly his dark eyes didn’t look very friendly at all.

Dr. Jamie Snell shook his head in disbelief.

“How the hell he survived is beyond me. We have had to put over forty stitches in his neck and he took a serious beating beforehand. It seems that when they hung him, they actually stopped the blood flow. Lucky really.”

The Prison Officer shrugged.

“Strong old boy, Vic.”

“Well, he’s not out of the woods yet. He’s still unconscious and until we see how he goes through the night…”

Dr. Snell left the sentence unfinished.

PO Boston grinned.

“An easy night for me anyway. At least the bastard can’t wake up and give me any aggravation.” He sat himself down by the bed in Intensive Care and opened up the Sun. He folded the paper at the crossword and licked his pencil earnestly.

Dr. Snell wrote his notes quickly, and after talking to the nurse in charge, left the ward.

Vic Joliff had listened to everything through a haze of pain; he was much stronger than any of them thought.

But Vic being Vic knew how to play the game.

Benny and Abul dropped Coco off at the local hospital at 8.45.

Benny was silent as Abul assured their victim that it was nothing personal. Just business. Coco was heartbroken at what had occurred and also knew he needed medical treatment as soon as possible.

Before getting out of the car he said sadly, “I would never betray you, Benny, you must believe that.”

He nodded, like a bored benevolent pontiff.

“Just fuck off now, Coco. I heard you the fiftieth time.”

As they drove off Abul glanced at him and they both started laughing.

“Did you hear him squeal when I stuck the cattle prod in his ribs?”

“They will guess what happened by the burns, Ben, but he won’t say a word.”

Abul sounded very certain of this. Benny just shrugged.

“Who gives a fuck if he does. Prick, he is.”

Forty minutes later the car pulled up outside a block of purpose-built flats in Southend. Benny left the car and made his way up to the penthouse. The door was opened by a small-boned, dark-haired young woman of seventeen.

“Hello, Benny.”

Her voice told him how pleased she was to see him. He smiled at her, one of his blinding smiles that made people want to like him, want to please him.

“Get your kit off, Carol, I have an appointment in an hour.”

Carol tutted as she put her hands on her hips. Her cross expression made Benny laugh.

“Mr. fucking Romantic.”

He laughed harder.

“I told you, girl, you want Mr. Romantic then give me back the key and go and find him.”

He took her where she stood, up against the wall. He was rough with her, and she cried out in pain. He slapped her hard across the face and she held her breath, frightened to move or make a sound until he had finished. All the time it went on he spewed filth into her ear and she tried to block out what he was saying to her. He would be back tomorrow or later in the evening with money and sweet words to soothe her. That was the Benny she loved, not this maniac who turned up frequently and just used her.

Fifteen minutes later he was back in the car with Abul on his way to Camden. Carol was sitting on the hall floor, sore and hurt and crying her little heart out. She could see the smears of blood on the wall beside her and it made her cry harder.

She kept repeating one word like a mantra under her breath: “Bastard, bastard, bastard.”

“Hello, Kenny.”

Maura half-smiled at him and he was made aware of how powerful her presence actually was. He liked Maura, always had; she was one of the few women he actually respected. But then, she wasn’t really like other women. She had the same coldness in her that her brother Michael had had. That unpredictability that all successful people in their line of business shared. She was also still very good-looking even if she would never see forty again.


His voice was clipped. He had no intention of showing his fear though he had an idea that Maura Ryan could probably smell it coming off him in waves. That was what they said about bitches and she could be a bitch when the fancy took her, he was more than aware of that fact.

“Do you need anything to eat, Ken? A drink?”

He shook his head once more.

“What I want, Maura, is some kind of explanation. No more, no less.”

She poured herself a drink, sat opposite him and looked him straight in the eye before saying innocently, “That was exactly what I was hoping for from you.”

Kenny Smith was struck dumb and as Garry watched the changing expressions on his face he felt an urge to laugh.

“You murdered my old woman!”

It was Maura’s turn now to shake her head.

“I don’t think so, Kenny. We’ve kept our head down and our arses up for a good few years now. We have no argument with anyone that we are aware of. But it seems someone out there is trying to cause us untold aggravation by making it look as though we’re on the rampage.”

“I lost my fucking wife, the mother of my child!”

Maura kept silent for a moment as if digesting the information.

Finally she told him, “Kenny, I am sorry for your loss, but you forget that someone tried to nut me. Instead they killed my partner.”

Kenny’s tirade started up again.

“He was a filth, and he wasn’t even a friendly one. I’m sorry, Maura, but people didn’t trust you any more once he was part of the fixtures and fittings. Surely you must have guessed that much, love? Clever girl like you.”

Garry stood up. Towering over the man in the chair, he bellowed, “Who the fuck do you think you are talking to, eh? My fucking family has made you plenty of wedge over the years and we have never once fucked up a single solitary person. We own judges and filth and have helped out many a fucking old lag in our day so you keep your fucking opinions to yourself and stick only to what is relevant.”

Maura pulled him away forcibly and Kenny realised again how close he was to death.

“Let me and Benny have him, Maws. Give the cheery fucker to us,” Garry insisted.

The thought of Benny Ryan the Airfix King, as he was nicknamed, made Kenny feel even worse than he already did. A feat in itself. But he wasn’t beaten yet.

“Don’t you fucking dare threaten me, Garry Ryan. I was in this game when you was still polishing your brother’s fucking shoes for him. You don’t scare me. I’ve dealt with them all, mate, from the old masters to the young punks, and you fucking remember that.”

Kenny stood up, his anger so acute he could almost taste it.

“Fucking Super Glue and threats of violence! Do you lot think you’re the first hard nuts ever to walk a fucking pavement? Shall I tell you something I learned many years ago, Garry? There is always someone harder out there, and they want what you’ve got and will do anything to get it. What goes round comes round, remember that. But nobody ever touched wives or family before. That has always been taboo…”

“Until now, that is.”

Maura’s voice was still level.

“Just sit down, the pair of you, before I take me ball back and then you’ll have nothing to fight over. Listen to you, like a pair of fucking kids.”

Both men sat down shamefaced and she continued in the same level tone.

“Kenny, I swear on Michael’s grave I had nothing to do with Lana’s death and neither did anyone in this organisation, OK. Now I need to know why people suddenly think we’re out to cause hag. I want the name of your grass, whoever told you we were behind it, and I want them now, tonight, so we can go and have a friendly chat with them and get to the bottom of this once and for all.”

Kenny still didn’t answer her.

She motioned with her head for Garry to leave them and he did so reluctantly. Then, pouring two more brandies, she handed one to Kenny. As they sipped the drinks she felt the tension gradually leave the room.

“I am truly sorry, Kenny.” Maura’s voice was warmer now they were on their own.

He hung his big shaven head so she couldn’t see his face past the livid white scar that neatly bisected one of his eyebrows.

“She was all right, my Lana, whatever people thought. She was a good kid.”

Maura could hear the grief in his voice.

“Now the fucking baby…”

He couldn’t finish the sentence.

Maura grasped his hand and squeezed it.

“I know what you are going through, Kenny, but you must believe we had nothing to do with it. Or with Joiiff’s old woman either. There is skulduggery afoot, mate, and me and mine are in the firing line. I have to sort this out and I have to sort it out fast. You understand that, don’t you? I need your help, Kenny, more than ever before.”

He nodded.

“I believe you, Maura, you was always straight with me.”

And he did. Something told him to trust her and he had always trusted his instincts. It was why he was still alive after all these years on the front line.

Maura topped up his glass.

“So, Kenny. Who gave you the information?”

“Rebekka Kowolski you’d know her by her maiden name. Goldbaum.”

The name made Maura feel dizzy and sick. Took her back to a time in her life she would rather forget even as it haunted her dreams.

“How would she know that?”

“Her old man, of course. He’s a minor cog in a big wheel. Works for Joe the Jew, in a firm that runs out of Silvertown.”

“I know Joe well. Why would he be involved with something like this? It’s too heavy for him, he would never take me on.”

Kenny shrugged once more.

“What am I, the fucking Oracle? Joe runs with the pack now. He has dealings with most of the crews around about. He can locate any kind of licence, from pubs to boxing matches. Done well for himself actually.”

“How does Rebekka come into it?”

He finished his drink and held out the glass for more before saying, “She’s the brains of the outfit from what I can gather, and she loves drugs selling them anyway. She is astute, Maura, I know that much. Has a good business brain. Her husband is a fucking Muppet. She’ll hold a grudge against you and all, won’t she? If memory serves me correctly, you and Michael wasted her old man.”

Maura refilled the glasses, her mind whirling. Once more she was back in the past, and not in any part of it she wanted to revisit.

The door burst open and Garry walked in, his face red with temper.

“Someone has clumped Mother.”

Both Maura and Kenny stared at him in shock.


Maura could not believe what she was hearing.

“She’s in hospital, I just had a call from a filth on me mobile. She actually gave him my number, can you believe that!”

“Fuck the mobile, Garry, is she OK?”

He nodded.

“More shaken than anything. I’ll get Roy to go and see her. Lee’s had a phone call from an old-timer thought it was worth a punt so he’s gone for a meet. Now are we out tonight or what?”

Maura nodded.

“Wait till you find out where we’re going, Garry. Talk about a blast from the past.”

Kenny watched them warily. As far as he was concerned whoever had decided to take them on must be mad. And if it wasn’t the Ryans, then who was behind the death of his wife? That was what he wanted to know more than anything. When he found that out, the Ryans wouldn’t be in it.

“I’ll come with you,” he offered.

BOOK: Maura's Game
3.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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